“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” ― Ran Fiennes, British adventurer
Every winter, we hear of close calls and near misses, people we know or don’t know who’ve narrowly avoided disaster, or even death. A capsized kayak, a misstep in the marsh, or slip on an icy gunwale or even dock.
Poor visibility, biting wind and multi-layers of outdoor clothing that limits movement, much more so compared to warmer months, are also factors that can get you sideways to trouble. Gear and equipment, even of the highest quality, can take a beating and fail when it’s the cold. Often there’s no “Bird Box” siren to forewarn us to impending danger, unfortunately. Stuff, as the polite version of the saying goes, just happens.
Since none of us are immune to the risks involved in pursuing our winter-time sports, preparation and planning are tantamount to an enjoyable experience. Waterfowl in particular are incredibly built by nature to withstand the bitter cold. Humans, not so much. Chief among these evolutionary adaptations is their instinct to migrate, perhaps the sole trait we have in common when it comes to surviving winter. But not all of us can be snowbirds. Waterfowl feathers are insulated, and their blood circulates counter-current to reduce heat loss through their feet and legs. We must wear neoprene waders and hi-tech base layers. They carry large fat reserves; some of us are skinny.
Recent statistics reported by the U.S. Coast Guard point out hunters are involved in an average of 35 major boating accidents per year, resulting in 14 deaths. Of those casualties 80 percent occurred by drowning, and 85 percent of those victims were not wearing a life jacket. The easiest and most effective safety precaution we can take is to put that life jacket (PDF) on before getting in the boat and leave it on until your feet hit on dry ground. If I’m wading and setting decoys in unfamiliar waters I’ll keep my PDF on. Here are a few other tips, by no means an exhaustive list.
1. Know you and your boats limits and don’t exceed them, especially when crossing rough waters and/or in deteriorating weather. Trust your gut when it whispers (or shouts), “This is a bad idea.”
2. Stow first-aid, “Ditch Kit,” (flares, hand-held VHF radio, GPS, flashlight, multi-tool, fire-starting kit, and other survival items) and spare clothing in sealable dry bags used by white water rafters. These waterproof bags are superior to plastic boxes, plus they float when sealed properly.
3. File a float plan with family or friends. A personal locator beacon is also a good backup should the need arise, giving rescuers your location to start the search.
4. Neoprene waders over lightweight waders; they’ll help keep you afloat, especially if cinched properly with a wader belt. Neoprene also seals in body heat, helping ward off hypothermia.
5. Never carry a loaded firearm in the boat. Self-explanatory. Same with drinking booze while gunning.
6. Ensure your boat and motor are in good operating condition. Carry tools, extra plugs and device to bail water.
MODERN FISH ACT: Before 2018 bit the dust, Congress and the President struck a deal on at least one thing: helping bring federal fisheries management into the 21st century by passing and signing into law the Modern Fish Act. The new law, which has been in the works for more than a dozen years, had overwhelming support within the boating and sport fishing community chiefly because it gives fishery managers and policymakers the tools to better manage, protect and promote our recreational fisheries. It also marks a crucial step forward in finally recognizing the important differences between commercial fishing and sport fishing.
Although not perfect, as there’s still work to do on the conservation and sustainability front, the nation’s saltwater anglers should feel encouraged that our collective voices are now better heard.
Thru Jan. 26: Duck Season, third split. Check DNR website for regulations.
Thru Feb. 2: AP Canada Goose season, third split. Check DNR website for regulations.
Thru Jan. 12: Dove Season, third split. Check DNR website for regulations.
Jan. 7: CCA MD Annapolis chapter meeting. Come and discuss plans for 2019 and enjoy local farm-raised oysters. 7-10 p.m. at AllTackle, 2062 Somerville Road, Annapolis.
Jan. 10: Maryland Sportsman’s Foundation’s Recreational Striper Forum. Discussion about current and future state of Maryland’s striper fishery. Held 6-9 p.m at the American Legion, 601 Radiance Drive, Cambridge, MD. RSVP at http://evite.me/YZe5qJfj3z.
Jan. 10: Fly Anglers Fishing Club’s “Brew & Tie” of 2019. Kislings Tavern at 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 12: Frederick Saltwater Anglers’ 10th annual “Fishing Expo.” 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Vendors, seminars, food. Frederick County (MD) Fairgrounds.
Jan. 14: Pasadena Sportfishing Group’s meeting. Capt. Walleye Dahlberg of Four Seasons Fishing is guest speaker. Doors open at 6 p.m., meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Earleigh Heights VFC, 161 Ritchie Highway (Route 2), Severna Park.
Jan 16: Annapolis Anglers’ Club meeting. Guest speaker is Lenny Rudow on winter fishing. Starts at 7 p.m., American Legion Post #7, 1905 Crownsville Road.
Jan. 19: Heroes on the Water Fishing Expo, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Maryland Chapter of Heroes of the Water. Odenton Volunteer Fire Hall, 1425 Annapolis Road, Odenton, 21113.
Jan. 24-27: Progressive’s Baltimore Boat Show. Baltimore Convention Center. Seminars sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Magazine include Cruising the ICW, Marine Diesel Maintenance, and fishing from Capt. Chris Dollar and Shawn Kimbro. Tickets and additional information at baltimoreboatshow.com.
Jan. 26-27: Kent Island Fisherman's Club’s 9th Annual Fisherman's Flea Market. Fishing, boating and crabbing, marine electronics, and clothing. Saturday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is $3 (16 & under Free), American Legion Post #278, 800 Romancoke Road, Stevensville.
Jan. 29: Anglers Night Out. Feature film is “Back Bay: Virginia’s Smallmouth with Lefty Kreh and Cory Routh.” Happy hour 5-7 p.m., movie starts at 7 p.m. Boatyard Bar & Grill, 400 4th Street, Annapolis.
Feb. 5-7: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Winter Meeting, Westin Hotel, Arlington, Va.
Feb. 9: Tri-State Marine Fishing Show, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Free Admission! Table space is $60. Call Dawn Yoder, Tri-State’s Tackle Shop manager at (410) 867-2398.
Feb. 14: Fly Anglers Fishing Club’s “Brew & Tie.” of 2019. Kislings Tavern at 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 16-17: Pasadena Sportfishing Group’s 27th Annual Fishing Expo 8 a.m to 2 p.m. Admission is $5, 12 & under are free. Earleigh Heights Vol. Fire Company, 161 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park.
Feb. 23: MSSA Annapolis chapter’s Saltwater Fishing Expo. Elks Club, Annapolis.
Feb. 23-24: Lefty Kreh’s Tiefest. BWI Marriott Hotel. Times to be announced on LKTF Facebook page.
Feb. 26: Anglers Night Out. Boatyard Bar & Grill. Feature film is “Finding Joe Brooks: Maryland’s Fly Fishing Pioneer.” Happy hour 5-7 p.m., movie starts at 7 p.m. Boatyard Bar & Grill, 400 4th Street, Annapolis.
March 14: Fly Anglers Fishing Club’s “Brew & Tie.” Kislings Tavern at 6:30 p.m.
March 26: Anglers Night Out. Boatyard Bar & Grill. Feature film is “Tribute to Tuna.” Happy hour 5-7 p.m., movie starts at 7 p.m. Boatyard Bar & Grill, 400 4th Street, Annapolis.
Chris Dollar writes about the outdoors for The Capital. Contact him with items for his column or the outdoors calendar at firstname.lastname@example.org